Coding & Cocktails: A LadyDev’s Perspective

Sometimes the most intimidating part of learning something new is taking that first step. After that, it just takes effort. Coding & Cocktails co-director Tamara Copple talks about one of the questions we hear often from our participants. 

Tamara“Tamara, how do you do it?” a Coding & Cocktails attendee asked me, frustrated at her own efforts to make discernible progress. She knows my story: how I heard about Kansas City Women in Technology while listening to public radio station KCUR on the way to work. How my developer husband told me I was “definitely” programmer material and should network with them. How I showed up to the very first Coding & Cocktails session as a participant, fell in love with KCWiT and within three sessions found that I was suddenly the program’s co-director, when I still couldn’t script my way out of a paper bag. She knows the spiel I give every time I present at Coding & Cocktails: “Nobody becomes a programmer by spending 3 hours a night, one night a month, while drinking. Nobody.”

Coding & Cocktails is about overcoming your inhibitions and self-doubt and trying something radically different. Despite the name, drinking alcohol is not required, but if a custom cocktail helps relax you enough to give it a try, we’re your show. If you discover programming is not your thing, that’s okay. Enjoy the drinks, enjoy the camaraderie, and pat yourself on the back for at least giving it a try. You’ve already done more than most.

On the other hand, if you discover you enjoy yourself at Coding & Cocktails and want to learn more, great! However, as with weight loss, yoga or going back to school, anything worth doing takes effort and practice, and eventually you must fully commit to the path to achieve the goal. Here are three things I have learned on my own journey.

First, know thyself. Know in your heart of hearts why you want to pursue programming. It takes a certain kind of thinker – not a mathematician, but a person who can think logically in steps and see patterns. One who enjoys building, and creating. One who really digs problem solving. Thanks to the plethora of free coding classes available online, just about anyone can learn the fundamentals but it takes a problem solver to get to the next level. I think in pictures and concepts, so algorithmic thinking is a learned behavior for me, but I persist because I like problem solving, and programming challenges me mentally in a way I enjoy.

Second, be accountable to yourself. As the program co-director, I have deliverables. I have a presentation to script in HTML, CSS and JavaScript. When I present a topic, I need to know what I’m talking about. When my partner Sarah asked, “Do you think you could push the presentation to the website this month?” I figured it out even though I had never touched the website code before. Trial by fire may not be necessary but you must carve out the time for learning and more importantly, practicing. If it takes the pressure of a deadline, so be it, you can always set one for yourself!

Finally, build your network. Be seen, be heard, and be active. Meetup has a nearly inexhaustible list of technical user groups. KCWiT specializes in connecting women who “want to be” with those who “are.” Talk to other women programmers, and make friends. We even have a Slack chat group for that very purpose. Letting people get to know you and your commitment makes them more willing to help you along your journey, and eventually even help you network into that life-changing job.

At Coding & Cocktails we provide a feminine, low-stress, non-judgmental environment for self-discovery. What happens next is up to you.

Copyright 2014 © Kansas City Women in Technology